Thursday, July 28, 2011

Back and Stuff

Man, what a difference a quarter makes.

Just three months ago, I was in between several trips back and forth across the country, to some of the grossest places the USA has to offer in fact, and mired in without a doubt two of the very worst transactions my career as a lawyer has ever taken me. I was barely seeing my family, I was struggling to keep up with the backlog at work to boot, and I was as close to miserable as I ever get, and it seemed like it would never end.

Mercifully, with June came the closing of the two deals, and since then I've barely had to travel at all for work. In fact, here just three months later, I've been able to take Hammer Wife and and the kids away to three different beaches along the east coast, for what the Hammer Kids have been calling "Beach Camp" and having a blast. Seeing my older girls get out there with me and bodysurf in the ocean now that they now how to swim is just priceless, watching them get completely wiped out by that wave that nobody even saw coming, disappear briefly below the shallow surface of the water, but then pop right back up, dust themselves off, and hurl themselves back at mother nature for another go-around. It really makes a daddy proud. And to think back even as late as early Spring, I could literally never have even seen such fun times coming in the future. It's just crazy how life can be sometimes.

Anyways, so Beach Camp has definitely had a negative effect on my blog frequency, but the positive effect on life is immeasurable. And now I'm back. I had written a monster post about the baseball season, reviewing all of my preseason over-under picks and analyzing all the teams, and then hungry blogger ate it right up. Gluttonous pig. Rather than re-write that whole thing, I'm just going to post up my random thoughts from the past week or so below and get that all out of the way in short order.

I thought that the Mets might finally starting to understand the notion of buying low and selling high. Right now is clearly the time to offload Carlos Beltran, who is having a strong first half of the season just in time for his go-year to get himself a fatty new contract. Remember the last time Carlos Beltran busted out of nowhere to come onto the scene and get himself a huge mega contract? Remember that postseason blowout with the Astros that led him to the Mets in the first place? The Mets are doing a good job dumping Beltran now when his value is clearly at its highest. They didn't get a ton in exchange for him, but the Giants are only renting him for a couple of months here, and in my view they almost certainly won't resign Beltran at season's end when he becomes a free agent. So the Mets did ok with the Beltran situation, and so did the Giants IMO. It's the team who signs Beltran to the next big deal who's gonna get screwed here, cuz this guy has shown it over and over again: when the motivation (money) is gone, so is the performance.

But then the Mets turn around and make the same mistake all over again, this time with Jose Reyes. Here is Reyes, another guy in his go year to get a new contract, and suddenly he's busting out with far and away his best season of all time, and really his first-ever awesome MLB season. He's not missing 67 games due to a stubbed toe, he's running out all his hits and making a great all-around effort, and he would be at the top of the list for the National League MVP if his team wasn't as bad as it is. But if anybody, ever, was at their highest value right now, it's Jose Reyes. If the Mets knew what they were doing, they would dump this guy in exchange for a big young starting pitcher, and a prospect of some kind, right now. Signing Jose Reyes to a long-term deal will be a total disaster, as the Mets will be forced to pay Reyes his overinflated value right now, only to watch him miss another 70 games in 2012 and hobble through his 30's as the team buys him when he is high instead of selling when they have the chance. As a Phillies fan, I like seeing the vestiges of the old Mets remaining with the organization -- the Wilpons might be the literal worst owners in all of baseball these days -- but it's amazing how obvious the truth can be to some people while others just consistently misread the situation.

Speaking of my Phillies, not many fans want to come right out with this, and I know I've seen some better overall records at this point in the season before, but I'm going to do what most Philadelphia fans are afraid to do right now and just say it: this might be the best Philadelphia Phillies team of all time. There, I said It-That-Must-Not-Be-Said. We already saw in 2010 how the Phillies failed to step up in the NL Championship Series when expectations were at their highest in a how will the current squad deal with even higher expectations here in 2011?

Oh, and Charlie Manuel: How the fuck do you reintroduce that shitbag Brad Lidge to the mix with this team the other night, after finally being free of him all season long so far? For a guy who is perhaps one more World Series victory away from Cooperstown, the Phillies manager certainly has a consistent way of over-trusting his veterans to the detriment of his team.

And to finish out my baseball rants, how the fuck they allow that umpire to continue calling games after the debacle in the 19th inning in Atlanta the other day is beyond me. I mean, it's just like that assysniff ump with the perfect game from Armando Galarraga in Detroit last season -- there are fucking major league baseball umpires for crying out loud. In that spot -- especially in that fucking spot -- you have absolutely no fucking right to make that call unless you clearly see that a tag was missed, the runner clearly got a step in there ahead of time, etc. Which obviously did not happen, since both calls weren't even fucking close, and in the case of the Braves the other day, that runner still hasn't even touched home plate at all, let alone ahead of the tag. It's simple, really: that idiot Jerry Neals already decided long before the play at the plate in the 19th inning that he was sick and tired of working -- he had already put in more than two full games' worth of work and it was nigh on 2am -- and that the next schmuck who even came close to home plate, he was going to rule safe and call it a day. And an umpire who ever makes that kind of a predetermined decision -- under any circumstances whatsoever -- without a doubt, should be banned from calling baseball games for the rest of his life. They should ban his ass from major league baseball stadiums, period.

Oh, and about my preseason over-under picks. Suffice it to say that right now my biggest misses on the season are the Pirates on the downside, and the Reds and the Rockies on the upside in the NL, and the Indians and the Tigers on the downside in the AL. Overall I am looking at 14 up and 14 down among my preseason picks, with two of the picks a virtual tie at this point with about 104-105 games in the books for most teams on the 2011 regular season. So, as usual, it looks like it's going to come down to the last week of the season to find out if I can continue my streak of over-.500 preseason over-under picks in baseball and football.

And to at least begin the 2011 NFL ranting season, can I just be the first to say that the owners officially accomplished nothing by their silly fake "lockout" which was really nothing more after all than a standard negotiating tactic that the owners were not ultimately willing to allow extend into their 2011 regular season. When the Cardinals are paying unproven Kevin Kolb a five-year contract extension worth $63.5 million with $21 million guaranteed -- this for a guy with just a handful of mediocre NFL starts under his belt, and 11 lifetime tds vs 14 interceptions? $21 million guaranteed? And you locked out this year to get this? I mean, just look at the Carolina Panthers, coming off a 2-14 season last year and with a new head coach in town. First, it was defensive end Charles Johnson, whom the Panthers signed for $72 million over 6 years with $32 million of that money guaranteed. Then it was runningback DeAngelo Williams, who scored a 5-year, $43 million deal, with $21 million guaranteed. Sidney Rice signed with the Seahawks for a 5-year deal in the $40 million that includes almost $19 million in guaranteed money. Santana Moss. Santorio Holmes. Steve Breaston. The list just goes on and on and on. The NFL owners have the exact same problem today that they had before their fake lockout that they refused to follow through with in the end -- their player contracts are not guaranteed, so the players simply insist on extracting as much signing bonuses, up-front and guaranteed payouts in the contracts as is humanly possible. The players clearly have the upper hand in the real world in the NFL -- regardless of what the owners say about the outcome of collective bargaining negotiations -- and to think that this is the situation just literally days after agreeing to end their lockout of the players, this is about as weak as the NFL owners have ever looked against what has traditionally been the weakest of the four major sports' players unions in this country.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Main Event Busto

Well, so much for the building interest level of the WSOP Main Event that I was talking about last week. Monday was like D-Day for all the notable players and stories remaining in the event, as basically every last one of them was eliminated as we played down from 57 to 22 players remaining out of the 6500+ field that started about a week and a half ago at the Rio in Las Vegas.

First it was Andrew Brokos of Thinking Poker, who was one of the first bustouts of the day on Monday in the low 50's, and a big bummer to me as I long for the day when someone I consider to be an actual poker blogger (as opposed to a pro who also keeps a blog, etc.) wins a gold bracelet somewhere, somehow. Then Erick Lindgren, probably the last widely-recognizable pro remaining and one of the just a couple of full tilt red pros to cash in this year's Main Event, busted in the low 30s a few hours later, leaving us with no really recognizable names left in the field of still four tables remaining at the time.

But even then, there was still at least one interesting story left to me -- Erika Moutinho and David Sands, a boyfriend and girlfriend who not only both cashed in the Main Event, but both ran deep deep deep to the final 30 players and who even sat right next to each other at the ESPN featured table throughout Monday's play. To think that a couple would both survive this deep in such a huge poker tournament is truly unbelievable, and that they got to sit with each other and enjoy this once in a literal lifetime experience just strains all credulity, but it happened. I could not believe what I was seeing, actually -- these two played a few key pots against one another, but for the most part they were whispering to each other what cards they were holding whenever they folded without having to show. Right in front of everybody. I was salivating at the thought of all the media coverage this destined-for-fail pairing was going to bring if they could survive down to the final couple of tables (and obviously at the final table, if that could even be imagined), while at the same time frowning at the tournament director for allowing what was very overtly the sharing of hole card information after the respective hands were played, but which when I have played at the WSOP requires one to tell the entire table what they had if they reveal their hole cards to any one or more players. But somehow, because these two were seated next to each other and allowed to whisper with abandon in between playing hands, I could not believe what I was seeing. Not that I have the perfect answer to this conundrum, but yknow Jack Eiffel, you could have maybe just seated them at different tables -- or at least not directly next to each other -- in the interest of promoting fairness and equality for all the players involved.

In any event, eventually both boyfriend and then girlfriend ended up busting pretty close to each other in the 20s, eliminating what to me was the very last thing worth caring about in the WSOP Main Event this year. Especially since the advent of the ridiculous "November Nine" such that we won't even know which of the unknowns is the eventual winner for another several months here at this point, Monday just took the last scraps of air for me out of this year's World Series of Poker. It's unfortunate really -- I mean, I know some people get off on seeing a bunch of noobs playing it out on live tv for the $8 million first prize, and of course I will be happy for whoever survives to pull off that feat this fall in Vegas, but in reality, there's very little more boring to me than the thought of watching nine total and compelte unknowns whom I never cared about before this tournament and won't care about after this tournament, slinging poker chips around with mostly preflop allins. I'm not saying the WSOP needs to change anything or that this is any kind of an unacceptable outcome, but rather than my level of interest in the WSOP Main Event just fell off a cliff on Monday as the last of the stories fell by the wayside once and for all. Let's just say that I won't have on auto-refresh anymore starting today, as there'd be nothing for me to even follow along with that is of any moment to me whatsoever.

And thus ends for me the first WSOP without myself there in participation since 2006. I actually made it through ok, all things considered; no bouts of withdrawal, no urge to jump on a plane and call my wife from the air when it was too late to turn around. Playing that tournament at Foxwoods a couple of weeks ago helped to ease the pain a little bit, and I am planning on a similar outing sometime in August or September as well, probably down to the Borgata to play in the Fall Poker Open or maybe back to Foxwoods to get a little more of my poker on later in the year. But not playing at the WSOP in 2011 was ok in the end, and I certainly do not regret my decision not to throw away a couple grand on a tournament that I am nowhere near practiced-up enough to play my best in. Here's to making it back out to the desert for my annual summer reunion in 2012, when some 15 months of no online poker in the United States is I can only assume set to produce lower fields than the record numbers we saw across the WSOP this time around as players made that extra effort to take their existing rolls out to the WSOP given the shutdown of online poker in April 2011.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

The Main Event

I have to admit, over the past several years, these have been some of my most fun days from an internet lurking perspective. For television, those first few days of March Madness every year is the event, the one that has me glued to the tube for hours on end, just watching and taking it all in. Well, in terms of things that aren't televised live like college basketball games, that thing is the Main Event of the World Series of Poker.

The first time I remember really following along with the Main Event coverage live on the web was when Greg Raymer made his incredible back to back run so deep in the big one. I must have followed Raymer's stack and hand histories like a hawk for several days as we wound down from the early rounds, to the money, and especially as we worked our way down to just a few hundred, and then eventually under 100 runners remaining. I remember obsessively railing another incredible deep run from our very own blogfather Iggy in the Main Event a few years ago, one that had me finding a whole new set of websites where I could look up individual players' chip counts on a fairly realtime basis. In the more recent past -- mostly with the advent of the ridiculous "November Nine" schedule -- there haven't been quite as many big storylines to follow, and yet every year I'm out there lurking to get the latest on Phil Hellmuth's rantings, Darvin Moon's huge bluff, or the latest story about Dennis Phillips's fan club. And then of course last year, it was Phil Ivey and, to a lesser extent, Antonio Esfandiari who really captivated my attention and made themselves something I really cared about for a few days in the middle of June.

Well the Main Event is back again now, and I am following along, as usual. We had the usual array of bustouts early in the first four levels on Day One, but there are a number of people I have some interest in whose stacks I will be keeping an eye on for the time being, while they're still alive in the tournament anyways. Former Main Event champion and investment banker Robert Varkonyi, a guy who played right next to me at the Taj Mahal in AC a few years ago and again in the tournament I played at Foxwoods just a couple of weeks back, is alive and kicking, with 118,000 chips as of this writing. After his father's uninspired first-day bustout, Todd Brunson has basically the same stack, and another former ME winner and very dangerous player in Carlos Mortensen is also in action on Day 2b with 85k in chips at the moment. E-Dog Erick Lindgren, a guy I've always liked, is very short with under 30k but he's still alive and kicking here about halfway into Day Two, so that's another guy worth watching at least until he either doubles up or gets crippled. For those who love HSP, Patrik Antonius has a nice stack with around 220k in chips, and Steve Dannenmann, who has himself has two deep runs in the Main Event in the past few years, is looking solid with 135k in his stack as well, to go along with around 50k in chips for Darvin Moon. All of these guys are worth watching for me here on Day 2b, in addition to Thomas Fuller, whose blog I've enjoyed reading for quite some time, and who I'm following pretty actively on the twitter feed as well, and Terrence Chan, author of another blog I've enjoyed for years. Both are nursing fairly short stacks at or around the starting stacks, which as Day Two draws on are going to start looking awfully small in comparison to the size of the stakes likely being played at their respective tables. Edit: Moon won some pots in the last hour, and has now nearly doubled his previous stack to over 60k. Go Moon!
Further edit: Moon went on a great post-dinner run, made some big folds, turned a flush and flopped a set, and ended Day 2b with 145k in chips, nicely above average. Wtg Moon!!

Adding to the Day 2b action are those who survived strong from Day 2a yesterday, which list includes online pro Shaun Deeb with nearly 300k in chips, and his father Freddy who is also alive although on a much smaller stack at the moment, and there's Peter Feldman -- Nordberg from the old full tilt days whom I used to love to follow and whom I watched win a WSOP circuit event a few years ago, also sitting on over 275k in his stack. Miami John Cernuto finished Day 2a over 180k chips with still plenty of room to move, and Andrew Brokos, another very prominent longtime poker blogger, is sitting on 137,900 chips after two days of play. Former Main Event champion Tom McEvoy -- whose books on omaha I have read several of over the years -- survived Day 2a with 143k in chips, and I am also following along with Eli Elezra -- another HSP regular -- who has just over 151k in chips.

Any one of the people I mentioned above would be an interesting story that I would definitely be following along with over the coming week of increasingly higher-stakes play at the Rio. And, there are a whole bunch of other players not listed above in whom I would also take an avid interest if they start making a deep run. Despite the staggering proliferation of poker over the past decade both in this country and around the world, and in spite of the several years of mass availability of the game from a great many online sites in most counties in the world, and even with the WSOP continuously selling out by increasing the number of bracelet events year after year in a blind push to growing the gross participation in the WSOP without regard to damage being done to the overall brand, the Main Event continues to stand out as the one big poker event of the year that everyone wants to keep track of, and I am certainly no exception.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Now That is a Horribad Call


7/7/2011 4:04:33 PM PST (about 1 hours and 21 minutes ago) Arieh Eliminated
Preflop action had left three players still in the hand, including Josh Arieh in the big blind. Together the trio had built a pot of 6,100.

The flop came Q64 rainbow, and the small blind checked. Arieh fired a bet of 2,400, then the player in late position raised all in for about 20,000. The small blind got out, and after tanking for a bit Arieh called the raise, committing his entire stack of about 19,000.

Arieh tabled AQo for top pair, but was behind his opponent's 64s. The turn was an 8and river an offsuit 2, and Arieh -- who finished third in the WSOP ME in 2004 -- hits the rail before the end of Level 2.

Wow. I mean, Josh Arieh is a guy who clearly is supposed to see himself as one of the skill guys in the tournament, that we know for sure. And here he is, calling off a raise of 10x his bet on the flop -- representing 190 big blinds at 50-100 -- with just TPTK. That simply makes no sense. What hand is he ahead of here? Seriously, who is pushing in 200 big blinds on a flop raise with KQ in this spot? In a raised pot no less. That's basically impossible. And on top of that, this is just about the dryest flop in the world -- in a raised pot, there's no way someone is semi-bluffing a draw here, so that raise is absolutely screaming "monster!" How Arieh goes down calling like this just over four hours in to the WSOP Main Event is beyond me. Odds are the guy is still tilted after losing a big chip lead late in the 50k buyin championship event the other day. That is just the kind of play that the predators in this thing are waiting for one of the fish at the table to screw up and make.

By the way, I'm just reading the live coverage that we are looking at just south of 900 runners on Day 1A of the WSOP Main Event. Building in for the usual growing crowds as we head into the later Day 1's, I'm thinking this looks more like a 5000-person field than last year's 7300+.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Is it me?

Is it me, or does it seem like the full tilt red pros really did not come up with many gold bracelets at the WSOP this year? I mean, how often have you heard Lederer Ferguson's name at a WSOP final table this summer, or even Cunningham or Seidel, or Ivey? Juanda bested Hellmuth for one red pro bracelet, but otherwise at least it looks like these guys have far too much on their mind right now to play their best.

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